To Patney and Round – A Tribute to Moshi

The following piece of writing dates back to 2013 and was included in Dark Mountain Issue 5 in 2014. I’m posting it here as a tribute to my friend and collaborator Moshi, my walking companion of 16+ years who passed on to new adventures a couple of weeks ago.

As someone who talks and writes about the value of multi-species perspectives on climate and ecological issues, on interspecies collaboration in the arts etc, I couldn’t let her go without acknowledging all she did for me and my work in those 16 years.

As you’ll know if you read my posts regularly, must of my work takes place when I’m out walking, and if I’m walking then she is (was) generally there alongside me, sharing her perspective on each place. She was my guide and enriched my experiences in so many ways.

Thank you Moshi…

I’m in a field, I’ve walked across the mown strip of a path and stand towards the edge, my back to the open space and a cool wind pressing itself onto my left arm. There’s metallic clanging banging up ahead by the railway line, and a yellow digger, hard sided and square edged parked behind and jutting up above the bank of bouncy nettles.

I’ve been thinking about how I can articulate an awareness of being connected, of paying attention to the place where I blend with everything else. The place where I feel and am felt, where what is outside feeds my mind and what is inside feels like it pours out through my eyes, ears and skin to flood the world with sensation seeking tentacles.

It’s hard to describe this state of being, this awareness, because describing often defines, and this is one thing I don’t want to define, it’s something I want to encourage, like a timid bird at the edge of my vision, made bold by my averted eyes.

I feel whole when I let go of being me and I let my boundaries dissolve. Here and now in a flat, green, uniform field, a fallen tree has dared to break the field’s boundary with its awkward, broken limbs. How long before it is tidied away? A perceptual order brought to a living pattern; a pattern cut, mown and held rigid as our perceptions are held.

The wind blows across these boundaries, strokes over and round me and runs on to the fallen tree, tickling the leaves of the slightly crispy Beech above, who answers, calling down the row to others – the wind is coming. I walk on over the railway bridge, the long, grey, metal-studded sides funneling a path scattered with wet pigeon feathers.

Through a field of whiskered barley and down the next track, my mind returns to connection. If we need to show and share, explain and tell the value of seeing and being beyond and across barriers, of not-seeing them, how does that happen? I hear my mind reply ‘by being across them, by just being and allowing your being to be shared, shown, imprinted through art, through writing, through being the tree that takes the wind and whispers to the world, no separation, wind and tree in one.’

A young buzzard in the tree ahead and above brings my ears up to meet him, shows me what they can do as he shrieks and raspily, croakily calls an almost-buzzard call.

As I’m standing still and writing I notice how cool my arms feel. How do I know where my arms are unless the wind cools them from behind, two elbowed arms tucked up and poking out from my t-shirt sleeves, highlighted in their softness and vulnerability by the moving air? How do I know myself fully unless I expose myself to the richness of the living, ever-changing world?

In my house I try to keep control – of temperature, of the entry of other animals, of water in pipes, but pipes can burst – bursting in on our cosy television-watching evening to shout out about power and presence, to remind me its still there, behind the copper piping, still wild and rushing like any mountain stream.

Here in or between fields, guided by signs, my perception colludes with the farmer’s machinery as I follow mown lines and peer through fences. Here the constant ‘show and tell-er’ of what can pass across these lines is Moshi – hearing sounds and smelling smells I can only imagine – pointing out pathways in the verges and up under the hedge that I have learnt to recognize as a badger or fox, but which to her must be so much more. More vibrant, deep, tasty, complex, multi-dimensional. I am an apprentice to her in my wildness, a child in my development as an animal.

The young buzzard has left his hiding place in the top of the Ash and speeds across a rough grass field, behind other Ash trees and round again, broad, clean, red-tinged wings holding him up into the strengthening wind, carrying him; body, wing, wind together, air calling up through his lungs and out of his beak.

The last time I was here I had my feet out – the sole of my foot pressed flat against the hardened chalk and coarse grass. It was hot, baking hot, baking my skin and hardening the ground. It was also horse-fly season, and I waved and rushed, chased by brown striped silent bodies, quietly landing to pierce and suck. Today the cloud and wind keep it cool and my experience of the ground is mediated by my boots, chunky, clumpy, hugging my ankles and absorbing the hardness of the stone-dotted earth.

That last time I gathered wool, reeds and brought the soil to life with spit for my page. This time I want to let the words be carried to me. The Chinese whispers of the wind continue as it pushes from tree to tree along the path, blackthorn leaves shivering on pinky stems, and opposite, sun-bleached stems bowing stiffly.

I feel as if I am learning to speak the language of my home-land, my new patch, this ditch drained, still boggy, reedy, patched-with-fields place, tucked away from main roads and houses, watched by clover-eating sheep.

My guess is Moshi is pretty fluent already, no boots to seal off her feet, or clothes to mask the messages from the wind, a nose to gather stories of badger feet and fox pee. She’s waits for me, pausing to look back, checking that I’m still here, before padding steadily on down her path of storied smells.

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